Sony BMG Planning Subscription Service? (AAPL)

Sony BMG is planning its own music subscription service it says will work with Apple’s iPod line. We think.

We confess we’re a bit confused about this one, in part because the story doesn’t make much sense. But also because the sourcing is coming from wire stories based on excerpts of an interview Sony BMG CEO Rolf Schmidt-Holtz gave to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. And we can’t read German. So. AP:

The CEO of Sony BMG Music Entertainment says that the company is developing an online music subscription service that would give users unlimited access to its music and be compatible with a host of digital music players… Schmidt-Holtz did not offer a timeline for unveiling the service.

As for costs to subscribers, the newspaper quoted him as saying that the “simplest option would be a flat rate” fee per month of around 6 to 8 euros ($9 to $12) for unlimited access to Sony BMG’s entire music catalogue and that the downloads would be compatible with all players, including Apple’s ubiquitous iPod.

He said that it was “even possible that clients could keep some songs indefinitely, that they would own them even after the subscription expired.”

A Bertelsmann spokesman confirmed that the interview was accurate but declined to provide further details.

Based on those details alone, we’re not really sure how serious Rolf is about this, or if he’s basically blue-skying a project here: It’d be great to launch a subscription service, it’d be great to work with Apple (AAPL), etc.

As we noted last week, Apple has discussed, at least tentatively, the option of running its own subscription service. But everything we’ve heard about that makes it seem like 1) a long-shot at best and 2) something Apple would want exclusivity on. So hard to see a Sony-sponsored, Apple-compatible service getting off the ground.

And, of course, a single-label music subscription will never work — you’d need all of four of the biggies, at a minimum, to have any shot at succeeding. Which makes it unlikely that Rolf is really talking about a Sony-owned service. Meanwhile Universal Music Group is trying to get the rest of its peers onboard with “Total Music”, a sort-of subscription service of its own, so for all we know Rolf is just describing UMG’s offering. Again, part of this may simply be a translation/context issue.

Any German readers in our audience? If so, we’d love to get your take on the piece. Meanwhile the rest of us will try to make do with Google’s translation.

See Also: Report: Sony BMG, Warner Ready To Join MySpace

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